From January 8th-February 5th, our church went on a prayer journey. By journey, I mean that our Life Groups met for those 4 consecutive weeks and focused on the sermons and a book, both on the topic of prayer. I really appreciate how Kevin described prayer for us:
"Prayer is simply the medium through which we experience and connect to God. Oddly enough, many people struggle to learn how to pray because they are focusing on prayer, not on God. Making prayer the center is like making conversation the center of any relationship. In prayer, focusing on the conversation is like trying to be driving while looking at the windshield instead of through it. It freezes us, makes us unsure of where we are going. Conversation is merely the vehicle through which we experience others. Consequently, prayer is not the center of this journey. Getting to know the Godhead: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is the center of this journey in prayer." -Pastor Kevin Crawford
The book we read through was Praying the Lord's Prayer by J.I. Packer. It did a wonderful job of expounding on each verse of the Lord's Payer into individual chapters. I've been amazed at what a beautiful prayer it is. I mean, come on. I've said it countless times, know it by heart and am now just realizing the depth of it? I guess I shouldn't really be surprised by this because after all, Jesus himself did say, "Pray like this". He tends to know what he's talking about.
I long to walk you through each power-packed part of the prayer, but alas, I simply don't have the time to get it all out. It's probably more of a conversation anyway, depending on where you are coming from. We discussed the book in Life Group and I am beyond thankful for this group of people who are willing to sit down and ask hard questions about God or flat out say "I don't get it". Here are some parts of the book that seemed to jump off the pages at me:
-"The vitality of prayer lies largely in the vision of God that prompts it. Drab thoughts of God make prayer dull. (Could this be your problem?)." Back to the idea of what Kevin said, it's about knowingGod. If I really knew him I would come to prayer in awe and amazement of what he has done, can do, and will do!
-"So God's kingdom is not a place, but rather a relationship. It exists wherever people enthrone Jesus as Lord of their lives." Our LG talked a lot about what "the kingdom of God" means. It's one of those not-so-friendly-to-the-modern-day-church (or language) terms. Especially for those of us who decided to take chance on Jesus within the past decade, which would describe most of our group of 15 or so people. But I think we agreed with the previous quote as a good place for our understanding to begin.
-Two great quotes about "Thy Will Be Done":
"Here more clearly than anywhere the purpose of prayer becomes plain: not to make God do my will, but to bring my will in line with his."
"Thy will be done expresses meekness, which accepts, without complaining whatever God sends, or fails to send. We are asking God to teach us all that we should do and make us both willing and able for the task. Can you pray this from the heart? It is not so easy as it looks."
-In regards to our debts, or sins, there's the obvious: shortcomings, rebellion, etc. But the author then touched on sins of omission. If you haven't been convicted yet- get ready.
"Sins of omission are what we have left undone which we ought to have done."
Summed up: Good left undone. Immediately I think of people I see or things I hear that make my heart ache, but then try to forget about it because I just want to "stay positive". But positivity doesn't change reality. Then there are little things, like saying hi to someone or giving a compliment. Just open your mouth Sara, and let others be blessed.
-"Those who hope for God's forgiveness, said Jesus, must be able to tell him that they too have forgiven their debtors."
Forgiveness, I believe, is the hardest, most unnatural act of man.
- In regards to temptation:
"As Luther said, you can't keep the birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from nesting in your hair. Find out what for you is fire, and don't play with it!"
I could go on and on, I really could. But the sleeping beauties upstairs are stirring from their afternoon naps and I want to leave you with something. Kevin designed this as a tangible tool on a not-so-tangible topic. Focusing on ACTS while I pray has been revolutionary. At least for me. A page from the inside of this small booklet is below, but if you would like the the cover and all to print out for yourself, I can email the PDF to you. Just lemme know. Here's to finding delight in prayer!